The second EP in the Mantra Americana series expands on the sound Madi Das & Dave Stringer crafted for their Grammy-nominated first album, combining modal melodies derived from Indian ragas with the chord structures and ecstatic vocal harmonies of American Gospel and Bluegrass. From swinging Bhangra tabla grooves to the twang of Appalachia, the sound of the band Mantra Americana can memorably be described as Roots & Ragas, Country & Eastern.
Highlights include performances from Greg Leisz, Dean Parks, and Mitchel Foreman on dobro, mandolin, pedal steel, accordion, piano and B-3 organ. Lead vocals evoke an alternative Johnny Cash that grew up in an ashram. The harmonies of the backing vocal quartet (Tulsi Bloom, Allie Stringer, Justin Michael Williams and Dave Stringer) recall the Laurel Canyon sound of the ‘70s. Patrick Richey studied tabla in India but was raised in Tennessee.
Mantra Americana is all at once profoundly devotional and playfully irreverent. It’s made of motifs that are borrowed and repurposed, but it’s also a wholly original work of art. It manages to be both blasphemous and orthodox, thoroughly modern and still grounded in tradition. It’s a tree with Indian roots growing in American soil, with fruit that tastes both familiar and exotic.